Marriage has undergone a few changes since the 1960s. Most notably, who can engage in it. While these changes are amazing in a civil rights sense, they can create some brambles when it comes to some older plays.
Take I Do! I Do!, the 1966 Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt musical (based off the play The Fourposter). It follows a couple throughout their fifty year marriage, a fairly typical marriage that covers all the situations that have since become sitcom fodder. The characters are “Him” and “Her,” and it wouldn’t be difficult for this classic piece of theatre to feel hopelessly outdated.
That’s where American Century Theater Artistic Director Jack Marshall comes in. While watching a production of I Do! I Do!, knowing his theatre planned to stage it, he realized it wasn’t going to work as written. The only reason he even put it on the schedule is “because I thought that I noticed it wasn’t being done very much, and when it was being done, it was only very rarely in community theatre.”
Round House Theatre had the professional rights, but it pulled the plug on staging it. Marshall said, “This is my chance to stand up for old American plays that no one respects any more.”
But then he faced a problem: how to simultaneously stand up for old American plays, without changing the content, and connect with a modern audience.
“You wouldn’t tell an exciting story about this one marriage,” he said. “This one marriage is the most boring, predictable marriage of all time.”
Boring as it might be on its face, “the point of the show has always been to hold up a mirror to married couples.” Thus the problem grows: by excluding a part of the married community, how can you claim to be making a show with that mirror in mind?
July 19 – August 17, 2013
Gunston Arts Center
2700 S. Lang Street
Tickets: $35 – $40
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But he didn’t want to make it about gay marriage. He didn’t want it to be about any specific pairing. Instead, it was about the institution of marriage, whoever decided to enter into it.
The solution hit him like a ton of bricks. Instead of having 2 players, why not have 4? Two men, and two women, who can sub in and out throughout the play, creating a number of couples: male/female, male/male, female/female.
He knows it might breed some controversy, but honestly, he’s a little excited at the prospect. “I’ve had no luck at the American Century Theatre courting any type of controversy whatsoever,” he laughed.
Maybe this is his chance. A classic play for post-DOMA America.